When Kim Knuth MBA '11 visited Cross Continent classmate and friend Courtney Perkins MBA '11 in northwest Montana shortly after graduation, she knew there was something special about the place as soon as she stepped off the plane.
During the visit, the two discussed the next steps in their post-MBA careers and they began brainstorming about a business model for a growth management company that would eventually become Venture Forward.
"One thing led to another, and we realized the potential for something great," Perkins said. "We wanted to create a company whose primary purpose is to invest in ideas or small companies with great potential."
Knuth's prior experience with John Deere and Intuit included consulting with small business owners who sold Deere products or used Intuit software to help them operate more effectively and increase profitability.
"I was used to working with small business owners," Knuth said, "and Courtney was skilled at accelerating operational and financial growth in companies. We were friends, but we knew we could be amazing business partners with skills and backgrounds that complement each other."
As they developed their idea, the two focused on more than just a business plan for Venture Forward. To ensure that this was a personally fulfilling and sustainable partnership, they discussed their shared values and personal and professional goals. Once they laid out a plan that was in line with each of their visions for the company, they began speaking with mentors and reaching out to their professional networks.
Knuth and Perkins attribute much of the network that built Venture Forward to Fuqua. Ben Golding MBA '07 serves on the Board of Advisors for Venture Forward, and Adam Wealand MBA '11 is the company's Director of Social Media and Marketing.
Referencing the Fuqua network, Perkins said, "Everyone has been willing to assist us. They've shared both knowledge and secrets of their trades. It's been incredible."
"We want to be very involved in our investments," Knuth said, "so, we've focused our attention in and around Montana to be able to work on-site with our partners and truly add value to the company outside of financial capital."
In August 2013, Perkins and Knuth secured their first investment with BijaBody, a Montana-based enterprise that produces anti-aging body care products and beauty tea blends.
"One of the most important things we learned while at Fuqua was the importance of a team," says Knuth. "BijaBody has the product and brand knowledge, we bring business strategy and execution and our third partner, The ZaneRay Group, brings sophisticated eCommerce expertise. Since meeting three years ago in Shanghai, we feel our time at Fuqua has prepared us for the opportunities ahead. We could not be more excited and thankful for our Fuqua experience, classmates and extended network."